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Air purification in the food industry

Air purification in the food industry - Spadoni
The food industry is one of the most delicate and restricted sectors in terms of hygiene and contamination control: every phase of preparation, packaging and transport is regulated and controlled to avoid the risk of physical, biological and chemical contamination.

The food industry is one of the most delicate and restricted sectors in terms of hygiene and contamination control: every phase of preparation, packaging and transport is regulated and controlled to avoid the risk of physical, biological and chemical contamination.

An important, often overlooked, contamination vector is compressed air.

Compressed air is widely used in the food industry in multiple processes, such as:

  • Cleaning of food residues (e.g. crumbs from baked goods)
  • Product guide (e.g. pneumatic pushers)
  • Cleaning and drying of products
  • Selection and cutting
  • Packaging

Its use in the beverage industry is equally vast in:

  • Fermentation processes
  • Bottle sealing
  • Beer bottling
  • PET blowing

The main contaminants in compressed air can be grouped into 4 categories:

  • Dust
  • Water
  • Oil
  • Microbiological contaminants

What is the origin of the contaminants?

  • Ambient air: Compressors suck in high volumes of ambient air which contains large quantities of invisible contaminants such as microorganisms, water vapor, atmospheric particulates and oil vapor.
  • Compressor: after the compression stage, the air is cooled; water and oil vapor condense and enter the system in the form of aerosols and droplets.
  • Storage devices and distribution piping: These devices cool the air, causing further condensation and accumulation of liquid, promoting corrosion and microbial growth.
La purificazione dell’aria compressa nell’industria alimentare - Spadoni - filtrazione aria - filtrazione

What damage can poor management of compressed air cause?

Poor quality of compressed air and failure to control contamination can cause multiple problems:

Contamination of products and packaging

  • Altered products
  • Possible damage to health
  • Image damage
  • Economic losses
  • legal action

Corrosion

  • Damage to lines and equipment
  • Less efficient processes
  • Increased operating and maintenance costs
In light of this, it is essential to identify and block all possible contaminant inputs, through an appropriate internal risk analysis and excellent knowledge of the production processes.

Unfortunately, to date, there is no dedicated regulation in Italy and many companies are not aware of either the risks or the causes of compressed air contamination. To support producers in the food and drink sector, the BCAS (British Compressed Air Society), the competent body in the United Kingdom regarding compressed air, has developed the Food & Beverage Grade Compressed Air – Best Practice Guidelines, which are currently the regulations most followed at European level.

Depending on the application and the type of impurity to be removed, different levels of purity are indicated. In particular, compressed air is classified based on the degree of contact with food:

  • Direct contact (e.g. cutting, handling, cooling)
  • Indirect contact (e.g. air for pneumatic actuation of machinery)

For each class the BCAS indicates the recommended cleaning levels based on the type of contaminant (for more information visit www.bcas.org.uk)

Particolato solidoAcquaOlio
Numero massimo di particelle per m3
Punto di rugiadaAerosol e vapori
0,1 – 0,5 micron0,5 – 1,0 micron1,0 – 5,0 micron°Cmg/m3
Contatto diretto40000006000100≤ -40≤ 0,01
Contatto indiretto40000006000100≤ +3≤ 0,1

Depending on the level of cleaning required and the type of contaminant to be removed, it is possible to use different types of filters: coalescence (removal of liquids and aerosols), particulate and sterilizing, which can be combined together to obtain the most suitable result for every need.

La purificazione dell’aria compressa nell’industria alimentare - Spadoni - filtrazione aria - filtrazione

Sources: https://www.thenextfactory.it/aria-compressa-attention-ai-contaminanti/

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